On the Heart of the Christian Mystery
"Be Luminous Witnesses of This New Life That Easter Has Brought"
"Be Luminous Witnesses of This New Life That Easter Has Brought"
VATICAN CITY, APRIL 29, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the Italian-language catechesis that Benedict XVI gave on Wednesday during the general audience held in St. Peter's Square. The Pope, who arrived by helicopter from the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, focused his meditation on the meaning of Christ's resurrection.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
In these first days of Eastertide, which is prolonged until Pentecost, we are still full of the freshness and new joy that the liturgical celebrations brought to our hearts. Therefore, today I would like to reflect briefly with you on Easter, heart of the Christian mystery. Everything, in fact, begins from here: Christ risen from the dead is the foundation of our faith. Radiating from Easter, as from a luminous, incandescent center, is all the liturgy of the Church, bringing with it content and meaning. The liturgical celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ is not a simple commemoration of this event, but the actualization of the mystery, for the life of every Christian and every ecclesial community, for our life. In fact, faith in the Risen Christ transforms our existence, effecting in us a continuous resurrection, as St. Paul wrote to the first believers: "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth" (Ephesians 5:8-9).
How can we then make Easter become "life"? How can our whole interior and exterior existence assume a paschal "form"? We must begin from a genuine understanding of Jesus' resurrection: Such an event is not a simple return to the preceding life, as it was for Lazarus, for Jarius' daughter or for the young man of Nain, but rather it is something completely new and different. Christ's resurrection is the door that leads to a life no longer subject to the transience of time, a life immersed in the eternity of God. Initiated with the resurrection of Jesus is a new condition of being a person, which illumines and transforms our everyday path and opens a qualitatively different and new future for the whole of humanity. Because of this, St. Paul not only links in an inseparable way the resurrection of Christians to that of Jesus (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:16.20), but he also indicates how the paschal mystery must be lived in our daily life.
In the Letter to the Colossians, he says: "If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth" (3:1-2). At first sight, reading this text, it might seem that the Apostle intends to foster contempt for earthly reality, inviting, that is, to forget this world of sufferings, injustices, sins, to live in advance in a heavenly paradise. The thought of "heaven" would be in this case a sort of alienation. However, to understand the true meaning of these Pauline affirmations, suffice it not to separate them from the context. The Apostle specifies very well what he intends by "the things that are above," which the Christian must seek, and "the things of the earth" of which he must beware. Here are first of all "the things of the earth" that one must avoid: "Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry" (3:5-6). To put to death in us the insatiable desire for material goods, egoism, root of every sin. Hence, when the Apostle invites Christians to detach themselves with determination from the "things of the earth," he clearly wishes to make it understood that it belongs to the "old man" of whom the Christian must strip himself, to be clothed in Christ.
As he was clear in saying what the things are on which one must not fix one's heart, with like clarity St. Paul points out to us what the "things" are that are "above," which the Christian, instead, must seek and enjoy. They regard what belongs to the "new man," who is clothed in Christ once and for all in baptism, but who always has need of renewing himself "in the image of him who created him" (Colossians 3:10). Look how the Apostle of the Gentiles describes these "things from above": "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another. ... And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection" (Colossians 3:12-14). Hence St. Paul is very far from inviting Christians, each one of us, to evade the world in which God has put us. It is true that we are citizens of another "city," where are true homeland is, but we must follow the path to this goal daily on this earth. Participating henceforth in the life of the Risen Christ, we must live as new men in this world, in the heart of the earthly city.
And this is the way not only to transform ourselves, but to transform the world, to give the earthly city a new face that fosters the development of man and of society according to the logic of solidarity, of goodness, in profound respect of the dignity of each one. The Apostle reminds us what the virtues are that must support Christian life; at the top is charity, to which all the others are correlated as to their source and matrix. It summarizes and abstracts "the things of heaven": charity, which with faith and hope, represents the great rule of the Christian's life and defines his profound nature.
Easter, therefore, bears the novelty of a profound and total passage from a life subject to the slavery of sin to a life of liberty, animated by love, the force that brings down every barrier and constructs a new harmony in one's heart and in one's relationship with others and with things. Every Christian, just as every community, if he lives the experience of this passage of Resurrection, cannot but be the ferment of a new world, giving himself without reservations for the most urgent and just causes, as the testimonies of saints demonstrate in every age and place.
The expectations of our times are so many: We Christians, believing firmly that Christ's resurrection has renewed man without taking him out of the world in which he builds his history, must be luminous witnesses of this new life that Easter has brought. Hence, Easter is a gift to receive ever more profoundly in faith, to be able to act in every situation, with the grace of Christ, according to the logic of God, the logic of love. The light of Christ's Resurrection must penetrate this world of ours, it must reach -- as a message of truth and life -- all men through our daily witness.
Dear friends, Yes, Christ is truly risen! We cannot keep only for ourselves the life and joy that he has given us in his Easter, but we must give it to all those we approach. It is our task and our mission: to arouse in our neighbor hope where there is despair, joy where there is sadness, life where there is death. To witness every day the joy of the Risen Lord means to live always in a "paschal way" and to make resound the happy proclamation that Christ is not an idea or a memory of the past, but a Person who lives with us, for us and in us, and with him, by and in him, we can make all things new (cf. Revelation 21:5).
[Translation by ZENIT]
[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I welcome the newly-ordained deacons of the Pontifical Irish College, together with their families and friends. Dear young deacons: in fulfilling the ministry you have received, may you proclaim the Gospel above all by the holiness of your lives and your joyful service of God's People in your native land. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims present at today's Audience, especially those from Sweden, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand and the United States, I invoke an abundance of joy and peace in the Risen Lord. Happy Easter!
Copyright 2011 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
[He concluded in Italian:]
My thought goes finally to the sick, to newlyweds and to young people, especially to the numerous adolescents from the Archdiocese of Milan. Thank you for your enthusiasm. I sense the joy of Easter. Thank you. Dear young friends, to you also, as to the first disciples, the Risen Christ repeats: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you ... Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:21-22). Respond to him with joy and love, grateful for the immense gift of the faith, and you will be everywhere genuine witnesses of his joy and his peace. For you, dear sick, may Christ's Resurrection be the inexhaustible source of comfort, consolation and hope. And you, dear newlyweds, render active the presence of the Risen One in your family life with the daily prayer that will nourish your conjugal love.
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